House committee votes to raise pilot retirement age amid shortage

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A pilot holds the thrust controls of a United Airlines Boeing 787 aircraft at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, March 9, 2023.

Ed Jones | AFP | Getty Images

A House panel voted Wednesday to raise the mandatory retirement age for commercial airline pilots to 67 from 65 as the industry faces a persistent shortage of aviators.

Members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure voted 32-31 to include the measure in proposed legislation to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration programs for five years.

“It’s a modest increase but that gives us some time for long-term solutions to take shape,” said Faye Malarkey Black, president of the Regional Airline Association, which represents smaller carriers that feed major airlines.

The association had pushed for the bill to stem the loss of pilots as airlines ramp up schedules and pilot hiring after shrinking during the Covid-19 pandemic by urging aviators to take buyouts. Airlines have blamed a shortage of pilots on service reductions, particularly to small cities.

The last time Congress raised the pilot retirement age was in 2007 when it was raised from 60 to 65.

The committee voted 63-0 on the proposed FAA reauthorization bill Wednesday, but it now faces a vote in the full House. It isn’t clear whether the new retirement age provision would be in a final version of the bill or make it through a vote in either chamber.

The Air Line Pilots Association, the country’s biggest pilot labor union, which represents aviators at major carriers such as Delta and United, has opposed the measure.

“The rash decision to move an amendment on changing the statutory pilot retirement age, without consulting agencies responsible for safety, or studying potential impacts of such a change as has been done elsewhere, is a politically driven choice that betrays a fundamental understanding of airline industry operations, the pilot profession, and safety,” the ALPA said in a statement.

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